Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein - 25 August 1918 to 14 October 1990 

Leodard Bernstein was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. He was described by The New York Times as "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.

His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side Story, as well as Candide, Wonderful Town, On the Town and his own Mass.

Bernstein was also the first conductor to give numerous television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954, continuing until his death. In addition, he was a skilled pianist, often conducting while performing piano concertos simultaneously.

As a composer he was prolific, writing symphonies, ballet music, operas, chamber music, pieces for the piano, other orchestral and choral works, and other concert and incidental music, but the tremendous success of West Side Story remained unequaled by his other compositions.

West Side Story

West Side Story is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, and the romantic world of Renaissance Italy is turned into the violent inner-city slums of the West Side of New York. In Romeo and Juliet you have two opposing families: the Capulets and Montagues; in West Side Story you have two rival street gangs: the Jets - white Americans, and the Sharks - Puerto Ricans. and just like in Romeo and Juliet there is a romance, only this time it is between Tony and Maria.